Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Hobos

My wife has told the story of when she was young, and a man came to the door of the family home in small-town Minnesota. It was snowy, and he was cold. They let him in, fed him and gave him a place to sleep until the next morning.

A friend has shared similar stories, as a pastor's kid living by the railroad tracks in another Minnesota town. The "hobos" would come through and find shelter, a meal and good company with the Koch family.

We call this hospitality in the truest sense. We've allowed it to become narrowly focused on those times when we invite people over for a Sunday dinner, but its roots and meaning are in the obvious word "hospital" - as in, the place where one goes to find help and healing.

Christa Wells writes in her song, "You've Got a Home":

Here’s a key to my front door, got a pillow if you lost yours
you got a seat at my table, you've got a home
Here’s somebody who believes you, let truth remind you
you’ve always got a place to go to, you’ve got a home

How many of us would say no to the "hobo" today? How many of us would keep the doors locked and blinds pulled so we don't have to see what's outside of our front door? How many of us have a pillow and blanket for the stranger in need? How many of us trust God to take of us while we take care of others?

The paradigm for the Christian life isn't the active church-goer. It's the one who tends to the needs of her neighbor, practicing real, Christ-like hospitality.

Majoring in the Minors

I'm a little miffed. Last week, I washed the windows at church, and within 10 minutes, somebody (an adult) had put her arm or fingers on the glass, smudging them. A bit later, I got frustrated by my 5:00 appointment moving to 6:00, and then to 8:30 the next morning. I got home that evening, and saw cat hair clumped up and around our baseboard heaters...just before opening the dishwasher to discover somebody's evil plot to drive me nuts by loading it with seemingly no regard for how the machine actually works.

If you could imagine these scenarios, you'd understand the madness, and be miffed right alongside me! Or, maybe you'd rightly suggest these are minor issues compared to the death of innocent children (e.g., gunfire, abortion), or the neglect of our planet (e.g., waste, overuse).

We've become people who make mountains out of molehills, and egregious errors out of pet peeves. We've tried to make our laws of primary importance, and we've made God's Laws arbitrary, political, and secondary.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others." - Matthew 23:23

This is what happens when we put ourselves first - our nation, our freedoms, our rights, our bodies. But, God didn't call us to a faith that lives in a self-serving bubble. To love others, we don't need to love ourselves first...but, to know that God has first loved us.

I'm still struggling with the inconveniences and irritations, but I want to be ready, willing and able to take on the big issues. Scripture commands us to love, "... because love covers a multitude of sins," but I also like to think that God can give us the patience to handle all the peeves, as well.

Real. Present. God

Real. Present. God.

That was the theme of our National Youth Gathering this year, held in Minneapolis. I just got back, and I'm a little tired, but mostly amazed, impressed, and inspired by the conference itself, and by the youth who were willing to take a step back from the rigor of life and invest in their faith for a few days.

We actually were together for 6 straight days. We drove. We ate. We stayed up late. We laughed, cried, hugged and made decisions together. When it was over, we weren't really ready for it to be. It was a powerful experience that left us with memories to last a lifetime, and encouragement to live out our faith through the storms and troubles of life.

We looked closely at Psalm 46, and were reminded that Christians aren't going to have peace just because they know God. Trouble is real, and it is cosmic; it's not avoidable by "being good enough." Insurance companies identify some of these earthly, natural, unavoidable troubles as "acts of God."

The call in Psalm 46 is to "be still" in the midst of the natural storms, as well as in the very human wars, bullying, injuries, or other troubles. "Be still" tells us to stop, and see that God is real, and present...just as He promised He would be. The Garden of Eden was formed out of the chaos; the Tabernacle was established during the wilderness wandering; Jesus Christ came to live and walk the earth in turbulent times; and, the Spirit dwells in the midst of our conflicted hearts today.

The Gathering is refreshing every three years, but God gives us the weekly Sabbath as the "be still!", the "shut up!", the "enough, already!" and the commanded pause that we desperately need, to regularly remember, honor, and enjoy the promises of our Real. Present. God.

"Be still, and know that I am God." - Psalm 46:10

Pride's the Thing

The Bible's Old Testament may be old, but it's also historical in nature, and good for us to know and understand. When we read it, we see that many of the same issues plaguing the people 3000 years ago haven't been solved. They've cycled through to become issues again, and again.

In response to the prophet Isaiah telling him that his sons and everything in his kingdom will be taken away by an enemy, King Hezekiah says: "'The Word of the Lord is good.' For he thought, 'Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?'" - 2 Kings 20:19

A leader who doesn't care about his people, or a father who is unconcerned with the welfare of his children, who doesn't seem to care about whether or not future generations will have a land to live in because everything is fine right this committing the oldest sin in The Book.

Hezekiah didn't commit adultery. He didn't steal. He didn't kill. He was a faithful king derailed by...pride. The wisdom of Proverbs 16:18 - "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall."

Pride's the thing that keeps you from celebrating other achievements and victories of other people, keeps you from admitting you need help or apologize when you're wrong, gets in the way of doing the greater good, and is easy to see in somebody else, but almost impossible to see in the mirror.

Don't get sucked in or stuck in this self-serving sin. You don't have all the answers, and this world isn't all about you. To lead a God-pleasing, caring-for-others life, seek the counsel of others, and the abiding wisdom of the Ancient Words: "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God...casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you." - 1 Peter 5:6-7

A Friend Dearly Missed

A friend of mine is dying. She's only been a friend for 4 years, since my family moved to Sturgeon Bay, but we will miss her dearly.

My wife, Michelle, went to visit her yesterday and came away with an insight that is all too true: "'s easier to pour out the words of your heart and shed the tears of your soul when you're standing in front of the urn...than when you sit down to talk to somebody who is still here..."

Our friend wants to have a going away party while she's still alive, instead of a funeral. (She said we can have a funeral if we want, but she won't care.) I wonder how many will show up to say the hard words to the living?

The party is unconventional, sure, but she's spent her whole life not giving "a rat's ass" about what other people think of her. Her words are colorful. Her approach is aggressive. Her faith is simple. Her heart is kind. She sits with the dying, eats with the forgetful, and talks to the non-verbal. She smokes with the men, fights for the women, and plays cards with everyone. I admire this woman, and I will tell her...again...because the harder thing to do is usually the right thing.

Jesus speaks of a wide and narrow path in Matthew 7:13-14. The narrow path leads to life. The harder road is truly living. The better way...isn't conventional at all.

The party planning for our friend has begun. She'll have one with her friends on earth and another with her Lord in heaven, and she'd be the first to say she's milking this death thing for all it's worth. Perhaps, but maybe we're just not getting as much out of life as we could. Doing the hard things can change a life...including your own.

***Note: This was originally written back in May, 2019. The friend did pass away very soon afterward, and we didn't have a chance to enjoy her for one last party. Still, we'll play cribbage this winter, and remember how she won the last tournament we had...Rest in Peace, Karen

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Dead and Dusty

My fingers are black and oily from preparing the ashes for our Ash Wednesday service. A dark shirt is the attire for that day, with the mood set to match the theme - recognizing our mortality. We are human beings - amazing dreamers, but finite; brilliant thinkers, but selfish; independent, but creatures who exist because we have a maker.

We are dust in our origins, before God breathed into the heap that became Adam. We will be dust again, some time after that breath departs.

Speaking of breath, the outdoor temperature still allows you to exhale and see it. Look again, and you'll see a beginning and an end to it. The cloud goes out only a few feet from your face before disappearing. Remembering your mortality isn't supposed to be morbid...but, it should redirect your thoughts and your ego back to the One who was, who is, and who will be.

We mark ourselves with a cross, but the work of the cross has already been done. Jesus Christ died, that we might live - undoing the natural order of all created things. Those ashes and your breath are only part of the story. By the time this Lenten season is over, we'll be celebrating the resurrection of the body, not the destruction of it...and, we'll be enjoying the Spirit, the breath of God that causes dead and dusty things to come alive!

Today, the air is still chilly, and the snow is still mostly white with a fresh dusting. You will still drive through drifts and skid across patches of ice, but when you look up you'll see the sun...and, you'll remember that this is not all there is. The earthly, mortal season has an end...but, it gives way to one more glorious, and eternal.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Twelve Days of Christmas - Door County Shopping

The Twelve Days of Christmas - Door County, Wisconsin
buying locally for your true love

Your guide to 12 days of gift-giving this Christmas! Go through the list, and decide which item/activity for each day you’d like to share with your true love. You’ll notice that this whole plan can be done for somewhere around *$50. Many of these local shops have the added bonus of gift wrapping options - use it, and make your gifts looks good! Traditionally, the gifts would begin on Christmas Day, December 25, and continue through January 5.
*for best results, plan ahead and spend some money.

On the First Day of Christmas… [a partridge in a pear tree]

On the Second Day of Christmas… [two turtle doves]
  • Turtle candies
  • Pair of Gloves
    • Alpaca  to apparel (Fish Creek) - 920.536.1394
    • Door County Alpaca (Sturgeon Bay) -920.746.4020 or Facebook @doorcountyalpaca
  • Pair of Socks
    • The Sock Lady (Sturgeon Bay Winter Farmers’ Market) - 920.743.7750  or Facebook @baypoplc
    • Alpaca to apparel (Fish Creek) - 920.536.1394       
    • Door County Alpaca (Sturgeon Bay) - 920.746.4020 or Facebook @doorcountyalpaca

On the Third Day of Christmas… [three French hens]

On the Fourth Day of Christmas… [four calling birds]

On the Fifth Day of Christmas… [Five golden rings]

On the Sixth Day of Christmas… [six geese-a-laying]

On the Seventh Day of Christmas… [seven swans-a-swimming]

On the Eighth Day of Christmas… [eight maids-a-milking]
  • Maid, House cleaning
    • Door County Cleaning & Maintenance (Baileys Harbor) -920.559.7535
    • Ahnapee Hill Cleaning (Sturgeon Bay) - 920.743.8312
    • Mi Casa Door County (Sturgeon Bay) - 920.559.9905 or Facebook @micasasucasadoorcounty
    • Harmanny Green Cleaning (Forestville) - 920.615.8100  or Facebook @HarmannyGreenCleaning
    • Sue Dahms (Sturgeon Bay) - 920.495.6461
    • Amber Sternard (Sturgeon Bay) - 920.495.7440
  • Milk Frother
  • Milk Products

On the Ninth Day of Christmas… [nine ladies dancing]
  • Dance Lessons - Miss Andria’s Dancin’ on the Door
  • Anything from Dancing Bear (Sturgeon Bay) - 920.746.5223
  • Line Dancing
  • Robin Jay Music Shop (Founder’s Square, Fish Creek) - 920.868.1600 ???
  • **Idea: Flash mob of people dancing - no purchase necessary

On the Tenth Day of Christmas… [ten lords-a-leaping]

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas… [eleven pipers piping]

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas… [twelve drummers drumming]
  • Drum-making workshop
    • Chief Oshkosh (Egg Harbor) - 920.868.3240 or Facebook @ChiefOshkosh
  • Comedian (w/ rimshot? – it’s a stretch, but it’ll work!)

If you discover something else to add to this list, or if any changes need to be made, please reach out by email -, or by phone 920.743.7750

Thank you, and on behalf of the Door County Visitor Center and the local businesses, we hope you enjoy the Twelve Days of Christmas this holiday season!